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Fight Over Civil War Horse's Head Finally Ends

The mounted head of Old Baldy, the trusted warhorse of Gen. George Meade, is seen with some of the General's effects at the Civil War Library and Museum in Philadelphia in 2003. Chris Gardner/AP Photo hide caption

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Chris Gardner/AP Photo

The mounted head of Old Baldy, the trusted warhorse of Gen. George Meade, is seen with some of the General's effects at the Civil War Library and Museum in Philadelphia in 2003.

Chris Gardner/AP Photo

People will fight over the strangest things. Like a stuffed horse head, for instance.

In this case, it's not just any old horse's head. And I do mean old since the horse in question trotted the ground during the Civil War.

The head belonged to an animal named "Old Baldy" which was owned Gen. George Gordon Meade who rode it into several battles during which the warhorse was wounded, including Gettysburg where Meade was the victorious commander.

After the horse's death in 1882, instead of it receiving a dignified warrior's burial, like Traveller, Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee's horse, Old Baldy's head was removed and mounted by Union Civil War vets. It later wound up at a Philadelphia museum called the Grand Army of the Republic Museum.

That museum loaned the head more than three decades ago to another Philadelphia museum, the Civil War Museum of Philadelphia. But when the second museum closed in 2008 it apparently resisted immediately returning Old Baldy's head.

As the Philadelphia Inquirer reports:

That's when the Frankford museum stepped in to retrieve its property. Attorneys for the two institutions worked out a deal - approved by Philadelphia Orphans' Court in December - that allows Old Baldy's return, possibly this month.

"It's been a long, drawn-out process to bring Old Baldy home, but we're glad he's coming and hope that he will bring more folks to the museum," said Eric Schmincke, president of the Grand Army of the Republic Museum and Library on Griscom Street.

A new museum-quality display case is being built, and the horse, wounded when Meade led a charge at Gettysburg, is expected to be on public display this summer. The relic is now stored at a warehouse in the city.

"We need to be sure that they can take care of it," said Sharon Smith, president of the Civil War Museum of Philadelphia, which is preparing to move its collection for retreatment and rehousing within about six weeks. "The court gave us responsibility for Old Baldy's protection."

The former Center City museum must approve plans for the transportation of Old Baldy and display of the relic, according to the court-approved agreement, Smith said.

All of this could have been avoided if those Civil War vets had just left the poor horse's head with the rest of its body and given it a proper burial when the beast died.